I keep hearing about how ” the 2nd Amendment only applies to militias, not an individual right.” This statement is wrong, and based on a lack of historical knowledge.
The 2nd Amendment has a preamble, the “well regulated militia” is just one reason for the amendment, it does not define the amendment.
Preambles exists in more than just amendments, for example, a preamble does not limit a claim on a patent. The preamble of the Constitution does not act to limit the scope of the document. It was common practice that when laws were passed you would cite a reason for having them.
When looking at the 2nd amendment you have to remember when it was written. There is a book titled Cardinal Rules of Legal Interpretation, By Edward Beal. It deals with the concepts of English law from 1762 through 1908. On page 252, Beal writes
“A preamble of a statute is a recital of some inconveniences for which a remedy is given.
“There was a time when statutes were made without preambles; and the preamble of a statute is no more than a recital of some inconveniences, which does not exclude any other, for which a remedy is given by the enacting part of the statute.” — 7 Bac. Abr. Statute (I.)2.
Enacting Part and Preamble.
The preamble may sometimes be usefully looked at as a guide to ascertain the subject-matter, scope and object of the statute.
Where the enacting part is clear and unambiguous, the preamble cannot be resorted to to control, cut down or restrict it.
Where the enacting part is ambiguous, the preamble can be resorted to explain it.”
the enacting part, the actual amendment, seems pretty clear.
This was further enforced in the 2008 case District of Columbia vs. Heller, The Supreme Court held (the following comes from the syllabus prepared by the U.S. Supreme Court Reporter of Decisions)
The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22
Lets use a little common sense. The founders had just won independence from Britain, they were able to do so because they had the firearms. Would they really limit the peoples right to bear arms to just the “militia”?
I would also like to point out that “well regulated” back then did not mean lots of government laws and rules, it meant trained and disciplined.
So if you where to right the Amendment today it would probably read.
“The right of the people to own and bear arms shall not be infringed.
This right has been protected for many reasons, such as, but not limited too, a well trained militia is essential to the sustained security of the United States.”
So to sum it up, the 2nd Amendment does protect an individual right. End of story. To change that, would require a new amendment.